Vodafone Ireland, ESB challenge eircom with $615M fiber-based broadband network

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Vodafone Ireland and Irish electricity utility ESB are emerging as a new broadband challenger to incumbent telco eircom with a $615 million investment to build a fiber to the building (FTTB)-based broadband network that will deliver speeds ranging from 200 Mbps to 1 Gbps.

When the two companies complete this network, they will become a bigger threat to Ireland's incumbent telco eircom, which is in the process of building out two new broadband networks: a fiber to the cabinet (FTTC) hybrid copper and fiber network with VDSL2 and FTTB.

In March, eircom said that its deployment of VDSL2 vectoring technology on its FTTC network will deliver speeds of up to 100 Mbps to 700,000 locations. It is currently offering speeds of 24 and 100 Mbps.

As previously reported, the new Vodafone/ESB FTTB network will connect homes and businesses by using ESB's existing electricity infrastructure, including aerial poles and rights of way.

Although the plan is to deploy FTTB throughout the country, Vodafone says it is targeting some 500,000 homes and businesses in 50 towns and cities.

The new agreement still has to get European Commission (EC) approval. However, Vodafone Ireland and ESB are looking to start the network rollout within the next few months, with the first customers being connected to a live service early next year.

Pat Rabbitte, Ireland's Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, praised the agreement.

"The National Broadband Plan underlines Government's commitment to delivering high-speed broadband services to rural Ireland, with fibre as a core element. Complementing Government investment in rural areas, will be commercial investment in more densely populated areas, offering competitive high speed services over multiple technology platforms," Rabbitte said in a release. "Today's announcement by ESB and Vodafone to create a joint venture company to deliver up to one gigabit of broadband speeds in 50 locations nationwide is a very exciting step in ensuring that regional towns can enjoy similar levels of connectivity to our cities, benefiting local business and helping to attract investment."

Both companies said the initial part of the project is expected to be fully complete by the end of 2018 with the option for a second phase under the joint venture. 

ESB selected Vodafone Ireland as its joint venture partner after conducting a competitive tender process. In February, a report emerged that Vodafone Ireland began talks with ESB about jointly building a Greenfield FTTB network.

This venture may be new, but Vodafone has plenty of FTTB experience, having installed similar networks in Portugal and Spain. The service provider currently has 200,000 fixed broadband customers in Ireland and more than 8.5 million across Europe.

For more:
- see the release

Related articles:
Vodafone Ireland, ESB synch up on FTTP network plan
Eircom increases fiber targets
eircom says vectoring will enable 100 Mbps speeds on its FTTC network